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Notes on Fear

“Fear is isolating for those that fear.  And I have come to believe that fear is a cruelty to those who are feared” (Biss 154).  This statement, like so many of Biss’ revelations in Notes From No Man’s Land, gave me pause.  Fear is isolating.  Fear is cruel.  And, as her cousin tells us, fear is violence. Biss

Growing up is, in many ways, about facing your fears and overcoming them.  Riding a bike is scary the first time you do it.  So is sleeping over at a friend’s house.  And going to college.  We are afraid of what is unfamiliar.  To accept these fears as absolute truths would be debilitating.  We would never venture into the world or try new things.  And yet, as adults, we allow our fears to become immutable.  We become settled in our routines, comfortable in our circles of friends, and we stagnate.  We cease to push the boundaries of our fears and we are instead penned-in by them.  As Biss points out, “Fear is accepted…as a kind of intelligence” (157-158).  It becomes prudent to be afraid.

I do not advise imprudence.  There are real dangers in the world and caution is often necessary.  But I wonder, with Biss, whether “insularity is a fair price to pay for safety” (154).  I strongly suspect that it is not.  Fear of people, especially fear of whole groups of people, demands that we avoid those people.  It demands that we do not take the bus through a particular neighborhood.  It demands that we carefully separate our homes from their homes, our schools from their schools.  It demands that we do not make eye contact, or smile, or offer a helping hand.  It demands that we treat other humans as less-than-human. It demands that we perpetuate age-old oppressions.

None of us lives without fears, but perhaps we can mitigate the damage they cause by examining them critically, by engaging them, and by growing out of them.

Biss, Eula.  Notes From No Man’s Land.  Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2009.  Print.

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When Words Get in the Way

Almost gone are the days of beach trips and flip flops. Too soon they will be replaced by stiff school shoes, scratchy leggings, and perfectly pleated pants. Books can feel like this. We (and by “we,” I mostly mean “I”) spent our summer reading fluff. Words like cotton candy stuck to the corners of our brains with the sticky- sweet consistency of burnt sugar. But then we realized that our children’s school sent home a summer reading list that we really ought to have started before August fifteenth. The school books, as good as they are, feel like a pair of new shoes; they are not yet broken in enough to be welcome to our warm weather frame of mind.

If you find this to be the case, I recommend trying books without words (or books with as few words as possible). Ease back into reading lists with tales that let your brain tell the story on its own terms. Soon enough, then, your syllabi will taste like warm apple pie, smell like crisp autumn air, and feel like your favorite fuzzy fleece against you skin.

Here are a few of my favorite (nearly) wordless wonders:

10.  Chalk by Bill Thomson


9.    Sector 7 by David Wiesner ( J-P W63s)

Sector 7

8.    Zoom by Istvan Banyai ( J-P B227z)


7.    The Arrival by Shaun Tan ( J 741.5 T153a0)

The Arrival

6.    Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day ( J-P D323g)

Good Dog Carl

5.    The Snowman by Raymond Briggs ( J-P B7644s)

The Snowman

4.    Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Good Night Gorilla

3.    The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney ( J-P P648L)

The Lion and the Mouse

2.    Flotsam by David Wiesner ( J-P W6365FL)


1.    The Mysteries of Harris Burdick  by Chris Van Allsburg ( J-P V265m)

Mysteries of Harris Burdick

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FYI: Welcome First Years!

You can probably hear the buzz and feel the energy mounting on the Wheelock campus.  It’s that time of year when we welcome the incoming freshman class to Wheelock College.  The Wheelock College Library would like to say, “Welcome First Years!”libheartyou

The most important thing for you to know about the Wheelock Library is that the library staff is here to help you.  That’s right.  We are here for you.  Ask us anything!  We’re here to help.  Never looked up a book in the library catalog before?  Ask us.  Need to find articles for your research paper?  Ask us.  Wondering where in the library the Writing Center is?  Ask us.

This is your library.  From open until close every day, this is your space to study, meet with friends, relax, learn, grow, and create.  Want to study quietly while listening to your best study music on your headphones?  We welcome you.  Want to work on a group project in one of the library’s group study rooms?  We welcome you.  Want to take a nap on a library couch?  We welcome you.

In the library you’ll find:

  • Studying Space, including Quiet areas, Collaborative areas, and Study rooms
  • Resources, including books (and e-books), children’s books, articles, course readings, and movies
  • AV equipment, including digital camcorders, audio recorders, digital cameras, voice recorders, and headphones
  • Computers and printers
  • Staff who are ready to help you

You may be asking, “Okay, but what if I’m a second year (or third year, or fourth year)?”  We welcome you too!  It’s never too late (or too early) to visit the library.

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Children’s Literature Awards

Have you ever wondered about the medals that appear on some children’s books? Probably lots of books you read (or were handed) when you were a kid sported these tiny, shiny seals, and you still find them on books today—golds, silvers, and bronzes. Many children’s literature award panels (and I mean many!) present these medals to authors who contribute works of excellence and distinction to the field of children’s books, but each award has a different focus and definition of what merits a medal.

The Newbery Medal    newberymedal

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The award goes all the way back to 1922, and each year, committee names a winner and at least one (though usually more) honor books.

2014 Winner


Flora & Ulysses – Kate DiCamillo (J D548f)

2014 Honors

newbery_doll    newbery_billy    newbery_one-came-home    newbery_paperboy

Doll Bones – Holly Black (J B5612d)

The Year of Billy Miller – Kevin Henkes (J H388y)

One Came Home – Amy Timberlake

Paperboy - Vince Vawter (J V398p)


The Caldecott Medal    caldecottmedal

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. (That’s right! This award goes to the artist who illustrates the picturebook—not the author.) The committee chooses a winner and one or more honor books each year—take a look at some past winners and see how diverse the illustrations are year to year!

2014 Winner


Locomotive - Brian Floca (J 385.097 F56L)

2014 Honors

caldecott_journey    caldecott_flora-flamingo    caldecott_mr-wuffles

Journey - Aaron Becker (J-P B383j)

Flora and the Flamingo – Holly Schaar Idle (J-P Id54f)

Mr. Wuffles! – David Wiesner (J-P W6365m)


The Coretta Scott King Book Award    cskingseal

Starting in 1970, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King. This award also has several pieces. There’s the Author Award, the Illustrator Award, the John Steptoe Award for New Talent, and the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement (those last two divisions—added in 1995 and 2010 respectively) are named for previous award winners). The committee also names honor books for the Author and Illustrator award.

2014 Winner—Author Award


P.S. Be Eleven – Rita Williams Garcia (J W6751p)

2014 Honors—Author Award

csking_march    csking_words    csking_darius-twig

March: Book One – John Lewis

Words with Wings – Nikki Grimes

Darius & Twig – Walter Dean Myers


The Stonewall Book Award—Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award    stonewallseal

The first and most enduring award for GLBT books is the Stonewall Book Awards, sponsored by the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table. Like the Coretta Scott King award, the Stonewall Book Award has several divisions, and recently, one of them has been devoted to children’s and YA literature—the Mike Morgan and Larry Romans award. Since The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd received the first award in 2010, many other books have won and been honored for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

2014 Winner(s!)

stonewall_beautiful-ugly    stonewall_angie

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children – Kristin Cronn-Mills

Fat Angie – e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

2014 Honors

stonewall_nate    stonewall_branded    stonewall_two-boys

Better Nate Than Ever – Tim Federic

Branded by the Pink Triangle – Ken Setterington

Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan (ebrary)


More awards to explore…

The (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award

The Pura Belpré Award

The (Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award

The Michael L. Printz Award

The Schneider Family Book Award

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal

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